Vintage Schwinn Exerciser Bike

What a find! Picked up this vintage Schwinn Exerciser bike at Savers (one of our local thrift shops) for $14.99. It’s in awesome condition, and works just fine. Just needs to be cleaned and lubed.

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I initially picked this up for “TBD” project. I say “TBD” because my shop is full of found bikes, wheels, bed frames (for the metal), and assorted other items that will be chopped, hacked and utilized for future builds. …even if, at the time of acquisition, I have no idea what I intend to do with the specific item.

Because building mutant and custom bikes is simply a [self-funded] hobby, I strive to pick-up most items or materials at no [or negligible] cost. This means for free, or for few bucks at most. I rarely will pay over $10 for an item unless the parts total much more than that.

The other instance of when I might pay more than $10 for an items is if it is unique enough to warrant it. Such was the case when I spied this vintage Schwinn Exerciser bike

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What drew me initially to this beauty was the sheer size if the chain ring. At 65 teeth I have nothing that large in my parts chest.  Imagine the outrageous gear ratios that can be achieved with that monster.  [Indeed, later while researching this bike online I found that someone had actually built a grain mill by modding their Schwinn Exerciser bike. Check it out at Baking, Biking, and the Country Living Grain Mill. – Ed.]

In my attempt to determine the age of this vintage piece, here’s what I’ve found by going through the Schwinn Catalogs of past

1973_schwinn_deluxe_exerciser_2 source: 1973 Schwinn Catalog

1974_schwinn_deluxe_exercisersource: 1974 Schwinn Catalog

1977_schwinn_deluxe_exercisersource: 1977 Schwinn Catalog

  • 1978 Model XR6 …. $156.95  Same solid chainring; this could be it as well.
  • 1979 XR6-0 …. $169.95  The control panel is different on this one. Nope.

So, from the above catalogs I can say, with a high level of confidence, that the model I have is either a 1977 Schwinn Deluxe Exerciser Model XR5 or a 1978 Model XR6.

Found this awesome build, on the Rat Rod Bikes forum, utilizing a Schwinn Exerciser frame: A New Twist On The Schwinn Excersiser..WOW!

Mad Max touches

A shout out to Rat Rod Bikes forum user, LocoJoe, who posted pics of his “Post Apocalypse Bike” in one of the RRB galleries. On his bike build LocoJoe cut a bike rim into pieces and used the pieces to create a cowcatcher-esque front fender.  I thought it looked cool and decided the Playa Marauder needed something similar.  Four 12″ rims from little kids bikes were chopped to build these features.

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Tying it all together

Go-kart tie rods are used to link the two outside forks to the center steering tube.

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Before welding on the steering connector plates to the bottom of the forks make sure the forks are in perfect alignment. I use a steel rod for this.

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Then make sure you employ a bit of Ackerman steering geometry to the steering plates on the bottom of the forks.  Again the Atomic Zombie plans have step-by-instructions on achieving the correct steering geometry. Pictured below you can see the steering tabs welded to the bottom side of my left and right forks, respectively. [Remember you’re looking at this forks from the bottom.]

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The center steering plate welded on to the bottom of the center steering tube.

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Connecting the steering tabs with the tie rods.

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Building the cross members

I cut four equal lengths of 1″ EMT conduit and then cut and ground fishmouth cutouts into the ends to ensure a flush 90-degree joint. [Hint: use a fishmouth template. Google it.]

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Pictured below are the homemade steering tubes welded up.

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Pictured below are the head tubes welded to the cross members.

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Cross members are then mounted at 90-degrees to the Beast’s middle head tube. Alignment is critical here.
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Creating the steering tube

Typically, when converting a bicycle to a three-wheel tadpole design, the bike’s original fork is chopped to create the steering tube to which to connect the tie rods.

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However, because the main bike was a “fat tire” bike with a front fork that fit a 4-1/4″-wide tire, I chose to save the fork (and wheel).  […for some other project TBD.]

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…And so it was off to my parts bin to find a new fork that would fit the Beast’s head tube.

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Unfortunately I did not possess the correct size. So, it was off to the Reno Bike Project to find a fork to fit. As you can see from the picture below, the Reno Bike Project has a little more variety in forks than I do.

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I found one that fit for $10.  Love Reno Bike Project! ♥

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Next the legs were chopped off the found fork…

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…and then the cut edges were ground smooth.

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Then the connector plate for the tie rods was welded onto the bottom of the steering tube.

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Btw, detailed step-by-step plans for building a “tadpole” design trike can be found in Atomic Zombie’s “Bicycle Bonanza” book of plans.  Note: I utilized Atomic Zombie’s step-by-step “Hammerhead Winter Trike” plans for this build.  A BIG Thank You to Atomic Zombie.

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Fabricating the headtubes

One of the first hurdles I encountered was that Genesis Super 32’s frame was made of aluminum, which meant I could not weld it. [The welder I use can only weld steel.]

This presented a challenge in that I could no longer use the Genesis Super 32’s head tubes, which I totally needed because of the unique size of the Super 32’s head tube — it was quite large; both in diameter and length. And nothing in my stockpile of bike frames would fit the Super 32’s bearing cups and fork.

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Next I thought I would simply cut a piece of steel pipe to the appropriate length. Unfortunately none of the pieces of steel pipe that I had in my materials bin had the appropriate inside diameter to seat the bearing cups. The picture below shows that I got close with a piece of 1.5″ EMT conduit, alas not close enough.

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So it was off to the hardware store; bearing cup and magnet in hand. …bearing cup to make sure the found item was the correct size; and magnet to make sure the found item was steel.

After a little digging around I found a coupling for 1.5″ EMT conduit that fit the bearing cups nicely. [See an EMT 1-1/2 in. Set Screw Coupling from Home Depot pictured below].

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Unfortunately, off the shelf, the coupling was too short for the fork’s length. [See the coupling matched against the Super 32’s head tube pictured below.]

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Not a problem. I would simply cut the coupling in half and then extend it appropriately with a piece of 1.5″ EMT conduit and weld the whole thing together.

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The coupling made this task easy in that it had a grove in the center offering the perfect cutting guide, as well as set screws to hold the conduit in place during welding.

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Pictured below is the homemade steering tube assembled (pre-weld) with bearing cups and bearings mounted onto a Genesis Super 32 fork.

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It was as though the little coupling was destined to become a head tube. Pictured below are two homemade head tubes.

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The Marauder build begins

Because I had built essentially the same design the previous year (see Gitche Gumee Tadpole), this build went very smoothly and quickly. [As always, a big Thank You goes out to Atomic Zombie DIY bike projects for providing the plans for this project! Note: I utilized Atomic Zombie’s step-by-step “Hammerhead Winter Trike” plans for this build. These plans can be found online and in AZ’s “Bicycle Bonanza” book of plans.]

The goal was to create a monster-sized tadpole-design three-wheeler with the aesthetics seen on the mutant vehicles depicted in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).

The monster size was achieve by utilizing the frame and rear drive train of a 26″ Mongoose Beast All-Terrain Fat Tire Mountain bike and the front ends (forks, wheels and tires) of two 32″ Genesis Super 32 Cruisers. [Yes, I had these laying around the shop.]

The Mongoose Beast I found on Craigslist a couple years previously for less than $100. Because of the tall profile (sidewall height) of the Beast’s tires, the overall tire’s outside diameter matched that of the Genesis Super 32’s tires.

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One of the Genesis Super 32’s I purchased new online for $179; the other I picked up at the Kiwanis Bike Program for $100.

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I had already used the rear wheels of these two bikes for another project [in process], so I needed to find a home for the two front wheels anyway.

As the name implies the Genesis Super 32 features 32″ wheels! The size of these incredibly tall wheels really need to be seen in person to be truly appreciated.

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[Note: In actuality, despite the marketing of “32”, the outside diameter of the tire is closer to 31″ than 32″; but still, these suckers are huge.

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I also utilized the handle bars and stem from one of the Super 32’s; and saved the chains and seats for parts. But because the frame is aluminum (as opposed to steel), there isn’t much I can do with the frame (from a weldability standpoint), because the welder I use can only weld steel.

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So, unfortunately, the two Super 32 frames may have to become scrap. [You never know though — a project may present itself.] [And, in fact, at the end of the steps of this build you’ll see that the rear fenders were also modded and utilized. – Ed.]

The Mongoose Beast

In the spring of 2013 Walmart introduced the 26″ Mongoose Beast Men’s All-Terrain Fat Tire Mountain Bike to serve the “fat tire” bike wave that was sweeping the nation.

As with most of the bikes Walmart sells the Mongoose Beast was/is an inexpensive alternative to the top-of-the-line fat tire bikes sold by other manufacturers. In fact, at $199, the Beast was a fraction of the cost one would expect to pay for a name brand, full-featured fat tire bike.
2013 Walmart Beast
The Mongoose Beast was single-speed on “supersized beach cruiser 4-1/4″ knobby tires” and featured a “rigid steel, cruiser design frame”. [Personally, I think the frame is more of a BMX design rather and cruiser design.]

Of course the quality of the Beast was debatable. The Mongoose Beast was much maligned and ridiculed by passionate fat tire enthusiasts. See Gear Junkie’s Fat Bike trend Dead? Walmart sells ‘Beast’ bike for $199 or MTBR’s forum Walmart Mongoose Beast sucks!, or many others.

However the Beast also had it’s legions of fans — particularly amongst bicycle builders. With it’s 4.25″-wide wheel set and tires, and steel frame (good for welding) the Beast offered bike hackers and builders an inexpensive palette from which to design. Heck, one couldn’t even pick up a fat-tire wheel for the $199 price tag of the Beast.

As an example of what could be done with the Beast see Rat Rod Bikes’ forum Mongoose Beast Fat Bike build and ideas. [Last I checked there were 29 pages of comments on that thread.] Or, check out one of my own builds, the Playa Marauder, that used a Mongoose Beast as a central component.

I purchased my first Mongoose Beast (pictured above) in 2013 for use on the playa during Burning Man. It immediately became my go-to bike for traversing the playa — and remains so today. With its 4-1/4″ wide tires, the Beast floats effortlessly across the unpredictable dunes and ruts of the ever changing playa surface. Additionally it’s simple single-speed design lends itself well to the harsh dusty conditions of the playa.

My Beast [pictured below] features ape hanger handlebars and lay back seat post to give me more room in the cockpit. I also swapped out the pedals.

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As I mentioned above, for my needs, the Mongoose Beast can not be beat. Out of the box, stock, the Beast is hands down one of the best bikes for Burning Man, IMO. For chopping and hacking the Beast offers an inexpensive means to add some “fat tire” to one’s builds.

Though seldom seen on the floor of Walmart stores today, the Mongoose Beast can be ordered through Walmart’s website. And sometimes on sale for much less than the $199 list price. [I have seen it as low as $169 on sale.] Occasionally one can find a Beast on Craigslist. For example, I picked up this one for less than $100 on Craigslist in 2014.

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Which I later used for the Playa Marauder build.

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The Playa Marauder

The Playa Marauder was a very fun build begun in June 2015 and finished in August 2015.  This bike project was built for Burning Man 2015.

Like the Gitche Gumee Tadpole built the year prior, the Playa Marauder employed a three-wheel “tadpole” design.  The tadpole design is perfect for the soft and unpredictable surface conditions of the playa.  Such a design has all the stability of a trike, but also the direct-drive traction provided by a single rear wheel drive.

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When I unveiled this bad-boy to the interwebs this was the introduction accompanying the unveiling..

Introducing my latest mutant bike build for Burning Man 2015: the Playa Marauder.  One part Mongoose Beast, two parts Genesis Super 32, and eight parts attitude add up to an eleven on the 10-point Badass scale.

A Mad-Max:Fury-Road-inspired pillager on three wheels, this human-powered playa vehicle features a supersized all-terrain 4-1/4”-wide knobby fat tire on the rear and dual 32” front wheels tadpole-configured on an 38” axle track — allowing this bad boy to effortlessly traverse the deepest playa serpents. Built on pieces chopped from more than seven bicycles, this amalgamation of repurposed bike parts sports inverted cow-catcher-esque fenders in front and a turret-mounted pneumatic harpoon in the rear resulting in a monster trike that is as striking as it is terrifying.

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Upholstering the seat

There is no shortage of how-to videos and online resources that provide instructions on upholstering a bench. [Google “upholster a bench” to see what I mean.] Just remember to cut the fabric large enough to wrap around the foam padding and plywood back while leaving ample fabric to which to staple. You can always trim off the excess later. Also, don’t forget to place your bolts in the seat back prior to upholstering.

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Making the seat cushions

Making the seat cushions. I sanded the edges of the plywood seat back and bottom so that they would not tear the fabric. Note: if the plywood fits snugly into the frame, then you may need to trim the size slightly in order for the plywood to be able to fit again after the fabric is attached.

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Top bar

Prior to painting I added a top bar bar to the frame. This piece will ultimately support hooks, lights and other accoutrements.

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Preparing to paint

With the pedicab build essentially complete it is now time to add the icing (i.e. paint). Break down the build to its separate components in order to prep for painting; clean up welds; remove weld splatter; sand rough areas; etc. etc. The more pre-painting prep work you do, the better the result of painting. I intend to prime, paint and let cure over the course of a few days. While I’m waiting for the paint to cure, I’ll upholster the seat bottom and back.

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Making armrests

Making armrests. The armrests for the seat were made from 1″ EMT. I was able to use my pipe bender on the 1″ size, so no need to buy 90° elbows. These were clamped into place; positioned appropriately and then welded onto the frame.

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Beginning the seat

For the seat bottom and back I’m starting with a sheet of ply wood. I will pad and upholster these pieces to make custom seat cushions. Like the floorboards, these plywood sheets are attached to the frame using carriage bolts. Under the seat bottom I welded a cross support to add strength and rigidity to the seat.

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Carriage bolts looks nice

I used carriage bolts to attach the floorboards to the pedicab’s frame. Carriage bolts have a rounded smooth top that are perfectly suited for the pedicab’s floor. Plus they give it a good look. Note, carriage bolts will require a square hole. [Hint: drill a hole and then use a square file to reshape.]

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Floorboards

I discovered a few pieces of pre-finished engineered hardwood flooring sitting in the back of my garage. W00t! Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose. These salvage pieces work great for the pedicab’s floorboards. Pros: strong, durable, and look good. Con: Very heavy. If they didn’t weigh so much, I would have considered using them for the seat bottom and back as well…a la picnic table style.

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Putting together the hitch

Putting it all together. I welded flanges to the top and bottom of the seat post sleeve. The spherical joint is slid between these pieces. Holes have drilled in the flanges for the hitch pin to be inserted. Note the use of a nut to lock down the spherical joint bolt to the top tub. Hint: loosen this nut when installing the trailer to the tow bike. Then, when in position, tighten the nut.

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More hitch fabrication

Creating the end cap of the hitch’s top tube. Weld a steel nut into the center of a steel washer that is at least the size of the OD of your hitch’s top tube. Note: I sanded the corners of the nut slightly in order to have it fit inside the center hole of the washer. Then weld the washer onto the end of the top tube.

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Homemade rod-end bearing

Weld the spherical joint to a bolt. This bolt will be used to connect to the top tube of the of the hitch arm. As noted previously, this ball joint is key to providing X-, Y- and Z-axis movement. My first hitch design allowed for only X- and Y-axis movement. The entire rig was very difficult to turn. Because the tow bike could not be leaned independently of the trailer, the trailer had a tendency to steer the tow bike.

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Homemade square steel tubing

Seat post sleeve. I fabricated the square tubing by welding together two pieces of angle iron. Make sure the sleeve slides easily over the seat post of the tow bike. A piece of appropriately-sized pipe, EMT, or a bushing can all work for this purpose. I set the seat post sleeve at an angle that matched that of the tow bike’s seat post.

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The helm joint

Google “pedicab trailer hitch” and you will get thousands of results. I discovered a variety of homemade designs. The one I decided upon is pictured here. The key component of this design is the “spherical” joint, also known as a him joint or rod end bearing. The ball joint is essential for providing movement on X, Y, and Z axes. Trust me on this, the hitch needs to allow the trailer to move left and right (X axis); up and down (Y axis); and to tilt when the tow bike leans in to a turn (Z axis).

 

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Attaching the hitch attachment

I made a couple cuts into the coupler in order to have it slide over the frame and cross support. These two cuts were made long enough to provide enough weld inches for strength. Because the trailer is detachable from the hitch, a 5/16″ pin with a wire lock mechanism was used to secure the coupler type to the hitch tube.

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Hitch attachment

To connect the pedcab to tow bike’s hitch I created a simple coupler using a 1-1/4” EMT 90° elbow. I purchased a pre-bent 90° elbow because I did not have the means to manually bend 1-1/4” EMT tubing. [My pipe bender will bend only 1” EMT.] Also, as you will see later, the OD of 1-1/4” EMT slides nicely into the inside of a 1-1/2” EMT tube. In this way the pedicab is detachable from the hitch — for portability purposes.

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Strengthening the frame

Before attaching the floorboards I stood on them and noticed some flex when stepping onto the pedicab’s platform. I decided to add a cross support to provide some additional strength and stability to the floor.

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Seat attachments and trusses

Because the seat attachments were welded to the frame only on their inside edges [so that the seat legs could slide all the way down to the frame on the outside of the attachments], I added trusses (in blue) for strength.

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Seat attachments and trusses

Upper right: The pieces to make the seat-to-frame attachments and trusses. Upper left: seat attachments bolted to the seat legs. No better way to ensure proper placement of the attachment for welding. Lower left and right: Attachments in position on frame. Ready to weld. (Hint: tack weld each attachment (4) on the inside edge prior to fully welding.

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Making the seat removable

Attaching the completed seat to the bottom frame. There are a few ways to attach the seat to the frame. I could have welded it directly to the frame. However, at that point, it would have been fixed (i.e. non removable). For portability purposes I wanted to be able to remove the seat from the frame, if needed. To achieve this functionality, I would need to bolt the seat to the frame. Here you can see some trusses I built and welded to the frame on which to bolt the seat.

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Keep extra supplies on hand

Also ran out of welding wire. Off to Harbor Freight Tools for more. FYI, I use a 90-amp flux wire welder for my bicycle-related projects. I run 0.035″ flux core wire through the welder. [Hint: Perhaps it’s good idea to have an extra spool of welding wire (or rods) on hand prior to starting your project.]

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Taking shape

This is the partially completed [no seat back yet] seat resting on the pedicab’s bottom frame. [Props are no longer needed to visualize the end product. Yay!] Notice the rear legs are very tall. That is because they will also hold the cross supports that create the seat’s back. I wanted the entire back of the chair from top to bottom to be one piece for simplicity.

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Setting up the weld

Setting up the seat legs for welding. C clamps at each top corner are used to hold the legs in place in setting up the weld. The piece of angle iron on the floor is being used to spread the seat legs the appropriate distance to insure the legs are perpendicular to the seat bottom. With the legs perpendicular (both in the left-to-right direction as well as the front-to-back direction, the seat bottom should be level.

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Seat bottom

Building the seat. The pedicab’s seat was built in the same manner as its bottom frame. The four sides were cut and mitered at 45°; clamped and squared; tack welded at each outside edge; checked for squareness again; and then welded completely.

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Ensuring alignment

When welding the dropouts alignment is crucial. [You want your pedicab to roll straight and have no wheel scrub.] Use the wheel or a spare axel to ensure alignment between the two drop outs. Note also the use of a square to ensure alignment of the axel to the frame.

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Fabricating the dropouts

I fabricated the dropouts for the pedicab’s wheels from the same angle iron from which the frame was built. I drilled and cut holes to match those that were in the stock forks from which the wheels came. The dropouts were then welded to the underside of the pedicab’s frame.

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When you can’t source the part, make the part

I happen to find a couple bikes with identical dropouts (pictured), but then I decided not to destroy the two frames. I also considered using a couple of the braces that came off of the salvaged bed frames. Ultimately, I decided to make (rather than hack) my own dropouts for the pedicab wheel. [More details on these to follow.] By making my own, I can ensure they would fit the frame and wheels perfectly.

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Sourcing dropouts

Wheel dropouts for builds can come from a variety of sources. Often the dropouts are hacked from the frame of donor bike from whence the wheels came. However, as can be seen in the photos of the forks, those dropouts are offset in an angle. I need straight dropouts for the pedicab, so those wouldn’t do. Next I looked through my stockpile of donor bikes for two identical sets of dropouts (the pedicab has two wheels after all).

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Keep the workplace clean

At the end of each day’s or evening’s build session get in the habit of cleaning up your work area. In that way you are able to start fresh and clean for the next session. I always pick-up, sweep, vacuum metal filings and weld splatter, and even put back my tools at the end of a day’s build. Depending on the size of the project and your available time, it may take days (or even weeks) to complete. A clean workspace is a happy workspace. 🙂

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Prototype

Laying out pieces and props throughout the build helps to ensure that your paper design is actually going to work and that your dimensions are workable.

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Visualize along the way

I frequently lay out pieces and props during the build process to help visualize the end product. Doing this also allows me to catch (and rectify) problems that might arise further down the line.

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Tack weld

Tack weld the outside corner. The will allow you to make adjustments to square each corner as you move from corner to corner.

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Laying out the bottom frame

This pedicab bottom frame measures 40″ wide by 45-1/2″ long. I mitred the corners with 45° cuts. [Hint: I read a tip on the internet that recommended cutting the miters at 46°, rather than 45°, in order to leave a small gap for welding purposes.]

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Plan and design

Before making a single cut plan and design your build to as much detail as possible. I start with an idea. I then sketch rough drawings where I play with the design and modify the measurements as needed. Then I place my final draft and measurements into a design tool in order to render a scale drawing. [Note: I use Google’s free design tool, called SketchUp.]

 

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Prep the raw materials

Prepare the metal. Remove the bed frame wheels, corner braces, clamps and brackets. Whether you cut them off or grind them off, try to salvage as much of the angle iron as possible. Throw the wheels, brackets and braces in your scrap bin. These may be used later for other projects.

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Raw materials

Raw materials. Bed frames are a good inexpensive source of metal for various projects. The angle iron used on most bed frames is typically 1/8″ thick steel. I pick up used bed frames from thrift shops and Craigslist. I’ve found them ranging in price from $10 – $20. I even found one for free on Craigslist’s “Free” section. [Hint: keep a magnet handy in your vehicle so that you can ensure the metal you are acquiring is made of steel. You want it to be steel so that you can weld it.]

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The Pedicab Trailer

The Pedicab Trailer was my biggest build to date.  More planning, design and build time went into this build than anything thus far.  I built the pedicab trailer for the purpose gifting rides to citizens of Black Rock City during Burning Man 2014.

The pedicab trailer build was started in April 2014 and completed in June 2014.  After completing the project I immediately began work on a tow bike in order to pull the pedicab trailer.  You can view the tow bike build here: Gitche Gumee Tadpole.

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Painting

No bike build project is complete without painting. Here’s the front end painted to match the pedicab trailer that it will be towing.

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Strengthening the front end

In order to strengthen the front end, trusses were added connecting the top tube to each head tube. I repurposed the original fork sides from the Gitche Gumee’s fork for the tadpole’s trusses. [I thought it only fitting.]

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Roll test!

With the steering linkage installed, it was simply a matter of installing the front wheels in order to perform a quick rolling test ride. 🙂

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The tie rods

The tie rods for the steering linkage are pictured below. Sourcing an economical pair of these proved more challenging than I had anticipated. Ultimately I found these online through Northern Tool and Equipment [Item #13811 – Plated Steel 13″ Tie Rod Kit].

[Since building the Gitche Gumee Tadpole i’ve learned that Northern Tool no longer carries this part. However I see that they do carry individual tie rod end bearings; so one could make her own tie rods. – Ed.]

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Chopping the original fork

The center fork’s left and right fork sides are cut from the fork’s crown; leaving only the steering tube and crown. Tip: Save the side pieces for later use. The crown is then ground clean and smooth.

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